On 18th February 2020, Templars, in collaboration with Baker McKenzie’s International Commercial & Trade Practice Group, hosted an interactive breakfast session focusing on issues relating to cross regional trade in Africa and specifically, Nigeria and the implications of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The event was opened by Dayo Okusami, while the welcome address was by Olumide Akpata, both Partners at Templars. Herman Warren, a Director at The Economist, kicked off with an economic overview on Cross Regional Trade in Africa.
The economic overview was followed by a panel session moderated by Mattias Hedwall, Partner and Global Chair, International Commercial & Trade, Baker McKenzie. Other panelists were Virusha Subban, Partner and Head of Indirect Tax, Baker McKenzie, Kerry Contini, Partner, International Trade Practice Group, Baker McKenzie, Ijeoma Uju, Partner, Corporate & Commercial Practice Group, Templars, Professor Jonathan Aremu, Professor of International Economic Relations, Covenant University, Nigeria and Jesuseun Fatoyinbo, Head of Trade, Stanbic IBTC Plc.
The panelists discussed issues surrounding global geopolitical concerns such as trade wars and Brexit; global & local legal/regulatory hurdles including export controls, customs & excise duties; and perspectives on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement in relation to Nigeria. The session was certainly characterized by a great deal of knowledge exchange with key learnings from other economic environments and a resolution of the many opportunities which the agreement presents the African continent if properly implemented.
Senior partner of Templars, Olumide Akpata, in his welcome speech extolled the ‘impactful’ relationship between his firm and Baker McKenzie. He described the roadshow as timely and pivotal, considering the central role of trade and commerce in international relations. The role of AfCTFA in bringing the issues of trade (not just in goods, but also in services) among African nations and entities to the front burner of discourse.
Akpata, who is the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law said much has been said, in various fora of discourse, about the need for Nigerian law firms to scale up and aspire to a more robust presence in the international legal marketplace.
He went further, “there is need for law firms to shed their local toga and its intrinsic paradigms, and embrace global best practices as well as enter into more profound and far-reaching collaborations and engagements with major global players within and outside the legal profession in order to be more competitive in the 21st century interconnected marketplace of goods, services, information and ideas – especially now that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is set to fundamentally change the way business and trade are conducted on the continent.”
Also speaking, Mattias Hedwall, Partner and Global Chair, International Commercial and Trade at Baker McKenzie, described his firm as an insider when it comes to issues pertaining to trade within Africa and between the continent and the rest of the world – thanks to its extensive legal and advisory services to a wide range of public and private sector players across the continent. He advised Nigerians – in all economic sectors, and especially legal professionals – to maximize the opportunities the continental trade agreement offers, as well as seek innovative ways to mitigate the risks and challenges inherent in the enterprise.
This event follows another recent collaboration with Baker McKenzie where the firms hosted a roundtable on the Nigerian power sector that addressed the challenges operators faced within the sector as well as exploring appropriate and effective solutions